My trusty Pacemaster Gold treadmill was getting a little long in the tooth at 13 years old. It still worked fine but the motor was noisy and the belt could skip a bit at high speeds if I didn't clean it often enough. Rather than wait for something bad to happen and be without a treadmill for the winter, I opted to get a new one. Times being what they are, I did my research online rather than in the store, and the one I picked wasn't in the store anyway. My only option was to get it and, if I didn't like it, return it. That treadmill is the Horizon 7.4 AT. All the reviews I read on it looked good, although there wasn't as much info as I'd have liked. It was also significantly less expensive than my Pacemaster. (They're out of business, unfortunately.)
It's hard to find treadmills without ridiculous bells and whistles these days. All I wanted was a good deck for running and some basic programs and manual operation. The 7.4 was one of the more vanilla machines available but still came with silly extras. For example, I really didn't need Bluetooth speakers or a nearly useless fan. Anyway, I'll first discuss the treadmill itself now that I've had it for a while, and then compare it to my venerable Pacemaster.
I'm not going to get into details on all the specs and stuff. You can get that from the Horizon site here. Instead, I'll focus on my own experience using it. That's the important part, right?
Structurally and mechanically, the treadmill is good. The motor is powerful and quiet, the deck is big (22" x 60") and has decent cushioning (I run in minimalist shoes...technically, racing flats). The frame is solid and comes with a lifetime warranty, as does the motor. I did, however, manage to break or strip a screw in the cross support beam by tightening it a little in trying to eliminate a noise. Turned out that wasn't the cause of the noise, and the broken screw doesn't seem to impact the structural integrity. Still, that shouldn't happen and although it is under warranty the only solution would have been replacing the entire frame.
I wanted a machine with as few bells and whistles as possible but this one still comes with Bluetooth speakers that I don't use and a built-in fan that couldn't blow out a match at six inches. I hope they didn't charge extra for that stuff.
It comes with a chest-strap heart monitor so that's good (although I already have several). It can be used in some of the programs (see below). Note that my old Pacemaster also did this so it's nothing special.
The Horizon treadmill has a maximum speed of 12 mph and an incline of 15% which are pretty standard for mid-range treadmills. I'd consider these minimums for runners; walkers don't need as much speed, obviously.
For speed and incline controls (the only important things), it has up/down buttons and quick-change buttons for each. For incline, the quick-change button layout is rather funky:
It also has vertical handles with three different features:
- Pulse monitor grips. These are found on many treadmills though I'm not sure why. They're really hard to use whilst running and very unreliable.
- Interval keys. These are trigger-style buttons, one on each grip. They are programmable to set incline and speed. Horizon seems rather proud of these, suggesting they're good for custom HIIT workout settings or warmup/cooldown settings. (There are a total of two settings as each side's button can be programmed to one pair of values.) So far, I haven't used them at all and I'm not impressed.
- QuickDial controls. These are plastic wheels at the top of each grip. They can be used to quickly change incline (left) or speed (right) quickly by small or large increments depending on how much you turn the wheel. They seem kind of cheap compared to the rest of the machine but work well...sometimes. Unfortunately, they are easy to hit accidentally when reaching for another control. That's super annoying.
The 7.4 AT comes with six built-in programs. As mentioned previously, I don't use them much so that's fine. A couple of things that are not fine: the manual does a lousy job of explaining how to use most of them, and the warm-ups built into them are ludicrous. Walking 0.5-1.0 mph is not going to warm up anything. More on this in the treadmill comparison below.
Here are the built-in programs:
- My First 5K: I have no idea how this works but it says it's a "9-week program [that] is intended for inexperienced runners ..."
- Calories: Not sure how this works. Haven't tried it. Apparently, it breaks it up into 20-calorie increments. Don't know how that impacts intensity levels.
- Custom: Don't know how this works. Says it's "a time or distance based goal program." Whatever that means.
- Custom HR: Haven't tried it but says you can set multiple target heart rate zone goals and it will adjust the incline to keep you in that zone, presumably using the chest strap monitor.
- Distance: Choose a distance and a level. Changes incline every 0.1 miles (I think) based on the intensity level. Presumably, speed is set manually.
- Fat Burn: Adjusts speed and incline in 30-second intervals based on the intensity level.
- Target Heart Rate: I'm not sure how this is different from the Custom HR program. I'd have to try it, since the manual is so bad, but I don't want to.
- Hill Climb: Simulates ascent/descent by increasing and then decreasing the incline. Speed is manually set.
- Sprint 8: They're really proud of this one. It does 8 30-second "sprints" separated by 30-second periods of lower intensity. Adjusts the speed and incline based on the level you select. It's OK (other than the super-lame warm-up/cool-down) but I prefer hopping on the rails for downtime. It's more dangerous, though, and not for beginners.
Comparing the Horizon 7.4 AT to the Pacemaster Gold
I had my Pacemaster Gold treadmill for more than 13 years. I finally decided to replace it with a new one before it conked out leaving me with no treadmill and new ones hard to find. (The person who bought it from me got a great deal.) I wanted something similar: a solid machine with a big deck and few bells and whistles.
I wanted to use the same vendor (G&G Fitness) where I got the Pacemaster because they were really good at service and had reasonable prices. With the pandemic raging, I did my shopping online. After investigating the machines they had listed, I went with the 7.4 for several reasons:
- Good price
- Good reviews
- Big deck
- Not too fancy
They didn't have one in stock so I couldn't try it out as I had the Pacemaster.
Here are some notable comparison points:
|Comparison||Pacemaster Gold||Horizon 7.4 AT|
|Motor||3 hp||3.5 hp|
|Deck size||60" x 20"||60" x 22"|
|Top speed||12 mph||12 mph|
|Number of programs||16 (by my count)||9 (I think)|
So far, the Horizon is looking pretty good although the number of programs foreshadows some important differences. Here are some highlights:
- Speed/interval adjustments. The QuickDial wheels are nice to use but, as mentioned, too prone to accidental changes. The numeric pads on the Horizon only allow whole number settings (and only some of them). The Pacemaster let you hit two of the 0-9 buttons to get a more precise value; e.g., 3 and 7 would give you 3.7 mph. Advantage: Pacemaster.
- If you use manual settings (as I usually do), when you stop the workout the important data disappears and is replaced by useless lettering telling you the workout is paused. So you have to note the time and distance before stopping and remember them. This was so horrible I sent Horizon support a message asking if there was some other way to get this data. They did not respond. Ugh. Advantage: Pacemaster.
- Both treadmills let you set up different users, but the Horizon has no way (that I know of) to see cumulative data on a user. The Pacemaster did that. It could also show cumulative data for the unit; i.e. all users. Advantage: Pacemaster.
- On the Horizon, some of the programs have no warm-up/cool-down. The ones that do are really bad, with just two settings that default to speeds that are way too slow. The Pacemaster would do a 5-minute warm-up/cool-down that was based on your settings for the workout you were doing. It also had a button that would let you trigger a cool-down anytime, even from a manual workout. I really miss that. Advantage: Pacemaster.
- The Horizon has a better shelfy-thing for holding a tablet or book or whatever. Not a big deal for me, but some people will like it. Advantage: Horizon.
So the biggest difference is in the software, which is very disappointing. The things I miss on the Pacemaster are not hard to implement and in 13 years one would hope that software would get better on treadmills.
One thing I didn't even bother mentioning but Horizon is keen on is the availability of an app that can control the treadmill over Bluetooth (from your tablet or, I guess, phone). However, the app gets terrible ratings and even the included manual warns that it can take a really long time for it to sync up to the treadmill every time you use it (if it syncs at all).
So there you have it. The Horizon 7.4 AT is a reasonably priced, solid treadmill that's good for walking and running. Just watch out for those stupid QuickDial controls, don't expect much from the programs, do your own warm-ups and cool-downs, and keep track of your time and distance when in manual mode.
Be seeing you.